Gunstock by the numbers – How much should Gunstock help county in reducing taxes?

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Gunstock Mountain Resort will soon welcome skiers. (Courtesy photo)

By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — How much of the money earned by the county-owned Gunstock Mountain Resort should be used to reduce taxes for Belknap County residents? And how much should be retained by Gunstock to ensure that there is fiscal stability for the area and that it doesn't have to ask taxpayers to fund its debt obligations temporarily, as it did in the 1990s?
Those questions are being debated between members of the the Belknap County Delegation and the Gunstock Area Commission, the five-person board appointed by the delegation to oversee the operations of Gunstock. At the end of the year, a memorandum of understanding between the commission and the delegation, which provides for $175,000 per year payments by the county-owned recreation area to county, expires.
So far, two meetings have been held between representatives of the commission and delegation with no agreement.The commission, mindful of the devastating impact of last year's ski season which saw it have to dip into its operating expenses reserve fund to cover part of the $1 million loss, wants to build up its operational reserve to $1 million and its capital reserve fund to $500,000 before committing any level of money to be turned over to the county.
The delegation, meanwhile, has seen members like Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) call on Gunstock to increase the amount paid to the county to a $400,000-to-$500,000-a-year level, based on recent improvements and additions to Gunstock's year-round offerings, which have increased profits realized from those operations.
Gunstock Commission member Sean Sullivan says that the commission is willing to negotiate a new level of funds to be turned over to the county but is waiting for the delegation representatives to specify what they think would be an acceptable level.
"We're willing to talk, but we want to hear some specifics from the delegation. We're not going to negotiate with ourselves," said Sullivan.

The 2017 budget adopted by the Gunstock Recreation Area Commission projects 170,000 skier visits this coming winter with $12.1 million in total revenues, including summer operations, and a net profit of $1.3 million from all operations.

Last month the delegation appointed one of its own members, Rep. Russ Dumais (R-Gilford), to a five-year term on the commission. He replaces Commission Chairman John Morgenstern of Gilford, who had applied for a third five-year term on the commission, and who maintained that building up the reserve funds is a top priority and that it would be several years before Gunstock could make larger payments to the county.
Dumais has said that he is hoping to bring a different perspective to the commission and cited his experience in the ski business as general manager for the Alpine Ridge Ski Area and Alpine Slide, as well as having been a selectmen in Gilford during the time Gunstock experienced financial problems in the 1990s. He had been one of the delegation's representatives negotiating with the commission.
Gallagher said the delegation has been looking to negotiate an acceptable plan going forward which would increase the amount paid by Gunstock to the county from its enhanced profits in recent years in order to reduce the amount raised by taxation.
Rep. Ray Howard (R-Alton) has said that "taxpayers are still on the hook for a couple of million and need to be made whole" and said that he was concerned abut Gunstock competing with privately owned businesses.
Sullivan says that Gunstock has been paying off the bond obligation funds that taxpayers had to pick up in the 1990s and has repaid $3.2 million of the $6 million so far.
"We're not trying to make taxpayers pay for our operations. We want to be able to minimize the risk to taxpayers by keeping on a sound financial footing," said Sullivan.
He said that Dumais had been scheduled to be sworn is as a commissioner next week, but will be out of town and that the commission won't meet again until Dec. 13.

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The new alpine slide at Gunstock opened late this summer and is adding revenue to the resort’s operation. (File photo)

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Gunstock looks to rebound from difficult 2015-16 winter

By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — Gunstock Mountain Resort is looking to recover from a difficult ski season last winter in which the number of skier visits dropped by one-third and income dropped by $2.1 million, with about half of that loss experienced during the Christmas vacation period, normally Gunstock's busiest time of the entire ski season.
Last winter Gunstock was open for 93 days and had 117,648 skier visits, compared with being open 121 days in the winter of 2014-15 and hosting 181,090 skier visits. It was the poorest ski season in recent memory according to Greg Goddard, general manager of Gunstock
Net operating loss for the year was $954,145, compared with a net operating profit of $495,904 for the previous year. Total profit center revenue for all operations, including the summer months, was down from $11,210,774 to $8,824,561, with total operating expenses declining by over $900,000.
The 2017 budget adopted by the Gunstock Recreation Area Commission projects 170,000 skier visits this coming winter with $12.1 million in total revenues, including summer operations, and a net profit of $1.3 million from all operations.
Goddard said that the resort enjoyed a robust summer season. Gross revenues climbed 7 percent, from $2.44 million to $2.82 million as attendance at every attraction increased along with sales of food and beverages. In particular, the mountain coaster, the latest addition to the resort's offerings, met all expectations and camping increased 5.5 percent.
In addition, Goddard said that the wake of the slow winter season he challenged the staff to achieve efficiencies and reduce expenses. As a result, he said the payroll was trimmed by $80,000.
He also said that Gunstock is well positioned to be able to make lots of snow this coming winter, despite the drought which affected most of the state for most of the year.
"We have no worries," Goddard said, explaining that since 1985 the resort has had a seasonal impoundment near Cobble Mountain that holds 80 million gallons of water drawn from Poor Farm Brook. He said that usually the resort begins drawing water in the middle of October, but this year the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services granted a special exception and the impoundment began to be filled in early September.
He said the resort uses between 110 million and 130 million gallons of water for snowmaking during a typical season.
Goddard said that the testing of snowmaking has begun and he expects that with the cooperation of air temperatures and humidity levels, the resort could begin making as early as the middle of November.

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Book is thrown at Maine main who led police on high-speed chase

WOLFEBORO — A high-speed chase that began in Maine and continued into Wolfeboro resulted in the arrest of a Maine man on Thursday.

11-11 Andrew Allen CollinsAndrew Allen Collins, 32, of North Waterboro, Maine, was apprehended as a fugitive from justice after the pursuit which started in Maine in Waterboro, and went through three towns in that state – Waterboro, Limerick and West Newfield – crossing over into New Hampshire and continuing on through Wakefield, Brookfield and ending in Wolfeboro, where Wolfeboro police deployed spike strips and disabled his vehicle.

The event began when York County Maine Sheriff's Deputies stopped to check the bail status of Collins, who was seen with a "protected person" in that person's vehicle. Upon seeing the deputies, Collins fled from them in the protected person's vehicle with the protected person inside the car. The vehicle in question is a Maine-registered vehicle.

Responding Carroll County Sheriff's Deputies deployed spike strips in Wakefield, which blew the tires on the suspect's vehicle. Collins continued on until the vehicle he was driving became disabled in Wolfeboro on Route 28, where he was arrested by waiting Wolfeboro Police officers, along with Carroll County and York County sheriff's deputies.

After Collins was arrested, he was taken immediately to the Carroll County House of Corrections, where he was held on $5,000 cash bail.

In Wolfeboro, he is being charged with the following: felony level fugitive from justice, felony level reckless conduct and relony level reckless operation (motor vehicle); misdemeanor disobeying a police officer, misdemeanor speed, and yellow line violation. Additionally, the Wolfeboro Police Department will be seeking an Administrative Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) hearing to permanently revoke his driving privileges (license to operate a motor vehicle) in the state of New Hampshire. According to Capt. Rondeau, executive officer of the Wolfeboro Police Department, "It is abhorrent behavior like this which needlessly risks the public's safety, causes motor vehicle fatalities and serious bodily injuries. The officers' and deputies' quick response in the deployment of spike strips greatly reduced the speed of this incident to a manageable situation before anyone could be harmed."

No one was injured in the incident. The suspect vehicle was towed from the scene by Crowell's Towing of Wakefield. Additional charges may be filed by the Carroll County Sheriff's Office and the Wakefield Police Department for offenses committed in their respective jurisdictions. Additional charges have been levied by the York County, Maine, Sheriff's Office.

No bail has been set in the case. The matter will be heard in the Carroll County District and Superior Courts.

The Wolfeboro Police Department thanked the following agencies who assisted the Wolfeboro Police Department in this incident or at the scene: The Wolfeboro Fire Rescue Dept. and Stewart's Ambulance, Wolfeboro Central Dispatch, The Carroll County Sheriff's Office, the Wakefield Police Department, The Ossipee Police Department, The Carroll County House of Corrections, The Tuftonboro Police Department, and the York County Sheriff's Office, Maine.

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FRM head loses bid to vacate Ponzi-scheme sentence

By BEA LEWIS, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — The mastermind of a scheme that defrauded investors out of millions of dollars has lost his bid to appeal his conviction.

On Oct. 18, Scott Farah, 58, formerly of Meredith, filed a motion asking a judge to "reset" the 15-year sentence handed down against him in January 2011, an action that would allow him to file a direct appeal of his conviction.

Farah who is serving his sentence at a federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, claims in his latest court filing that his action is not a "collateral attack" on the sentence or his guilty plea, but rather is a request to correct a "manifest injustice" by allowing him the statutory right to appeal that was lost to him as a result of ineffective assistance of
counsel. He is now scheduled to be released on Feb. 12, 2024.

Judge Paul J. Barbadoro denied Farah's request on Oct. 27.

His efforts to overturn his sentence was based on a claim of ineffective lawyering, alleging that his attorney, Michael Ramsdell, failed to tell him about his right to appeal his conviction or to file one on his behalf. Farrah filed the motion to vacate criminal judgment and reimpose sentence as an end play to launch an appeal, as the deadline has since expired.

In in his motion, Farah claimed that Ramsdell assured him that he would not receive a sentence of longer than 109 months. When the court exceeded the sentence by nearly six years, Farah claims Ramsdell had a duty to tell him about the appellate remedies available to him.

He also claims he entered his guilty plea on Ramsdell's advice based on his counsel that the government would not use the information he provided against him. Farah argues the very information he gave investigators was the basis for his indictment and subsequent conviction.

Farah wrote that he never explicitly agreed to the facts proposed by the government, "as he never intended to convict himself with his own lips."

He claims that when he met with government officials he was in the midst of a nervous breakdown, was being medicated by a doctor, altering his decision-making capabilities. He argues his latest motion does not "collaterally attack" his conviction but rather makes a claim that error was responsible for him losing his right to appeal.

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As part of his motion, Farah submitted a letter from a physician detailing that on Nov. 10, 2009, he was prescribed Sertraline, an antidepressant, and Diazepam, an anti-anxiety medication.

Farah's brother Daniel, who lives in Oklahoma, also signed an affidavit detailing that he attended his brother's sentencing and that prior to entering the courtroom he met with Scott and Ramsdell in a conference room to discuss the proceedings.

Daniel Farah said Ramsdell never discussed any matter involving his brother's appellate rights. During the sentencing hearing, the judge advised Scott Farah to confer with is lawyer if he wished to appeal.

According to Daniel Farah, his brother was immediately taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals and never had the chance to speak with Ramsdell again. He wrote that his brother had no knowledge of how to appeal his sentencing, what issues to raise or even if it was possible to file one.

Scott Farah claims he did not give up his right to appeal that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary. He argued that Ramsdell had a duty to consult with him based on the disparity in the sentences returned against him compared to co-defendant Donald Dodge.

While the government has proposed a 121-month sentence for Dodge under the terms of a plea agreement, he actually received 78 months.

In November 2009, just two months after the New Hampshire State Banking Department completed an audit of Financial Resources and gave it an A+ rating, Farah wrote that he contacted his attorney, Mike Gould, concerning the operation of the company.

Gould, who would ultimately surrender his law license for his involvement with Financial Resources, referred Farah to Ramsdell who formerly worked as an assistant attorney general. According to Farah, he met with Ramsdell that same day. That night, Farah asserts that he "suffered a nervous breakdown as he realized he'd lost everything he'd worked his whole life for and that his financial mortgage crisis had put his company in a very tenuous position."

His wife and youngest son were so concerned about his mental health that they took a shotgun out of their Hatch Corner Road home, fearful he would commit suicide, he wrote in court filings.

He then decided to drive to North Carolina to stay with his brother Daniel, who he said is a trained pastoral counselor. Farah's oldest son flew home from college the following day to chauffeur his father as the family had decided Scott was "mentally incapable" of driving himself, according to the court motion.

Farah stayed in North Carolina under a doctor's care and was prescribed an anti-depressant and an anti-anxiety medication in the days before he was indicted for mail and wire fraud.

On Nov. 10, acting under the advice of Ramsdell, Farah said, he instructed his father to hand over the keys to the company's headquarters at 15 Northview Drive in Meredith.

A search warrant for the building the contained all financial records and computer used by the business was never issued, but rather a consent to search form was allegedly signed, according to Farah.

He claims that Ramsdell did nothing to either protect or review the reams of data in the building before turning it over to the government, showing a reckless disregard for Farah's constitutional rights.

Farah maintains that he relied on Ramsdell's advice that he needed to fully cooperate to get a reduced sentence.

"Considering the fact that he was in the middle of a nervous breakdown and heavily medicated, he relied on Mr. Ramsdell's expertise and on the fact that Mr. Ramsdell would be a shield rather than a sword," Farah wrote.

Again relying on Ramsdell's counsel, Farah wrote that he twice met with investigators and confessed that FRM operated as a Ponzi scheme, using lenders' money to pay other lender obligations. He disclosed all the intricate dealings of the operation necessary to convict him and Dodge.

He provided information to support a total loss from 1989 through 2009 of approximately $33,567,110. All of the disclosures were made by Farah without any regard to the Fifth Amendment that protects a person from being compelled to be a witness against himself in a criminal case, based on what Farah claims was the "erroneous and defective advice of his counsel.

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